virus: A gorilla, a goat and an elaphant go into a bar...

Tim Rhodes (
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 23:06:05 -0800 (PST)

Again, I tell someone about memes and the next thing I know their sending
me a hundred questions and giving me a hundred good ideas and analogies
that I'd love to take the credit for. Here's another one about
meme-ecologies (maybe you can help me answer it):

On Mon, 17 Mar 1997, John Moen <> wrote:

> Hmmm, now I'm wondering about cross cultural memetic infection. ...and
> the cultural environment that comes into play. Now I ask - does a meme
> exist only in each individual's head or can it be viewed from one level
> higher where it exists on a cultural level as a different model? The
> same difference as the between psychology and sociology. Does the model
> work in both camps?
> What I'm envisioning is a model that veers from the strict genetic
> model, where memes can create "bodys" that can be very simple constructs
> to the very complex. The difference, perhaps between an amoeba and a
> gorilla. Both living organisms that infect their environments and try to
> reproduce and thrive, but very different in their structure and
> complexity.
> So, now, imagine that this gorilla is not made up of many cells with the
> same DNA working together, but a whole bucket full of different kinds of
> cells (something like individual amoeba, but with the "will" to bind
> together to form a greater entity) so that they all work together to
> make this gorilla-like structure, but each with independant DNA.
> OK - here's where I might start making sense:
> Now, imagine if you will, that the individual meme that exists in one
> person's head might be the equivilent of one of these symbiotic cells in
> this gorilla-like structure. The gorilla-like structure would represent
> another entity that has a joint will of its own, but is made up of these
> independant cells that are working toward the objectives of the new
> entity.
> Thoughts do not have the same physical constrictions that genetics have
> of the physical world. We have social rules that are very different from
> physical ones. (As if the physical ones all apply to the physical stuff
> anyway).

This is an important point and I'm glad John makes it here.

> I think thoughts have a very structural nature and very hierarchical,
> but the hierarchy changes when you look from each different perspective.
> That is to say, the gorilla-like structure of thoughts, from the other
> side may look like a goat and may in fact be a goat. Oh, wait, no - it's
> an elephant... and five blind guys went to feel up the elephant...and
> the first one said "This beast is like a purse. I reached my hand right
> inside, but could not find any keys."

So, anyone?

-Prof. Tim